Running on Empty
As some of you know, I have been known to run a bit. This is for exercise, not because I’ve stolen something or because a pit bull is chasing me! Yesterday I ran a race in College Station and it went well – my time was about as good as I could have hoped for. Even so, during the last part of the race, I was out of gas, breathing hard, legs tied up, and slowing down. I was not able to keep the pace I’d set earlier in the race.
This is not just a problem we face in extraordinary circumstances like a foot race. We have to deal with the problem of not having enough strength and energy in our everyday lives. In a series of sermons, Pastor Rick Warren suggested the following strategies to deal with an overburdened life:
- Lightening your load
- Slowing down
- Stopping to refuel
Lightening Your Load
The truth is that a lot of us carry around a lot of things that we do not need: extra belongings, self-imposed responsibilities, and even emotional dead weight.
In regard to material possessions, Jesus had this to say in Matthew 6:19-21:
â€œDo not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Human beings like to have things. We work hard to accumulate them. But when we place too much value on our belongings, we will do whatever we have to in order to keep them, including working ourselves into the ground. But what do such things matter?
In Luke 12:15, Jesus said to the disciples, â€œTake care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.â€
Paul also wrote about this in 1 Timothy 6:9, "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction."
We can lighten our loads by discarding things that are unimportant, things we do not need. Getting rid of belongings means that we do not need to maintain and secure them any longer. We can forget about them.
Similarly, we can get rid of our emotional dead weight be letting go of things in our past that no longer matter. Believe it or not, I have been involved in a few small-scale feuds in my day, whether it was with my siblings-in-law over the finer points of child-rearing or with work-mates over software development problems, and I’ll say that while disagreeing and arguing are inevitable, holding onto anger about a dispute doesn’t do anything but weigh us down.
In Proverbs 24:29, Solomon wrote: "Do not say, ‘I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.’"
So let it go. Discarding an old resentment brings as much relief as dropping a physical burden.
During the last part of the race I was talking about earlier, I was running on empty. I’d done the best I could but I was tired and the race wasn’t over yet. Since my car was at the finish line, I pretty much had to keep going. But the only way to do this was to slow down.
Our responsibilities can even more to tire us out than the maintenance our belongings. Our work lives, home lives, social lives, and even our church lives require us to stay busy, busy, busy. Over time, this wears us out. I think that we often burden ourselves with responsibilities that are not as important as we make them out to be. What would happen if we simply slowed down, began to focus on the things that are important, and let the rest go?
In Philippians 4:8, Paul wrote, "From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise."
In this letter he is telling his people what to focus on. Anything that falls outside of Paul’s list of prioritized items is not important. We can let those things go and never miss them. Reducing the number of things we have to do allows us to concentrate more on the things that really do matter.
Stopping to Re-fuel
After many years of hard work in Christ’s name, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:
"6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
Paul knew that he was done. He could not go on any longer and he felt that he had nothing more to give. He had to turn things over to another to keep his work going. Also in 2nd Timothy, Paul wrote:
"I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourageâ€”with great patience and careful instruction."
"5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."
In a different vein, we know that God himself rested at the end of his labors. In Genesis 2:1-25 it reads, "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done."
Sometimes we reach a point at which we can do no more work. It is time to stop, rest, and build up our store of energy again.
This church should be a place where we come to get a boost from our God, who made all of this for us.
How do we get recharged and recharge others? In many ways, but the most powerful is also the simplest: We give and receive comfort from each other when we genuinely engage in each other’s lives.
Our attendance here was never intended to be a perfunctory thing of 3 specific hours per week. The church should be the focal point of a community of Christians.
* an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location
* a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society
How is community described in the Bible?
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him"
Hebrews 10:24-25 – "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
Acts 2:42-47 – "And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts"
And if the church is not a community?
In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus said, â€œYou are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet."
Let us be more than that. Let us invest and engage in each others’ lives, with glad and generous hearts, devoting ourselves to learning, teaching, and fellowship.
Let us pray.